Micah Moore, 23, has been charged with murder in the Oct. 30 death of Bethany Deaton, 27. In his confession, detailed in a probable cause statement, Moore told police that he and other members of the prayer group had sexually assaulted Deaton and were afraid she would tell someone. Moore said that's when Deaton's husband, Tyler, ordered him to kill her, the statement said.
Moore's lawyer, Melanie Morgan, recanted confession on Wednesday, saying it was "bizarre, nonsensical and most importantly, untrue."
"These were the statements of a distraught and confused young man under extreme psychological pressures as a result of his friend Bethany's untimely suicide and the sudden removal of his spiritual leader, Tyler Deaton, from their extremely close-knit religious community," Morgan said in a statement she read outside court after Moore's preliminary hearing was delayed.
Police have said Bethany Deaton's death initially appeared to be a suicide. Officers found a note and empty bottle of over-the-counter pain medication along with her body in a minivan parked by a lake. A plastic trash bag over her head was tied below her chin with the attached pull straps, but not tightly, police said.
It wasn't until Moore confessed nearly two weeks later they announced a homicide investigation.
Tyler Deaton has not been charged in his wife's death. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said he is under investigation but declined to elaborate. Deaton does not have a listed phone number and did not respond to requests for comment The Associated Press made through Facebook and phone and email messages to his father.
Moore appeared in court in an ill-fitting orange jail jumpsuit and shackled to two other prisoners who were among more than two dozen brought in to make court appearances. His preliminary hearing was delayed after the prosecutor's office asked for more time to take the case before a grand jury. Morgan said later that she hoped investigators would put as much focus on disproving Moore's confession as they would in substantiating it.
She declined to take questions after reading the statement, which did not specifically address Moore's allegations that Bethany Deaton had been sexually assaulted or that Tyler Deaton had ordered his wife's death. Moore's father and other relatives were in court but declined to speak with reporters.
Tyler and Bethany Deaton had moved to Kansas City in 2009 from Texas to attend a six-month internship at the non-accredited International House of Prayer University. They met as freshmen at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 2005, and two years later Tyler started a prayer group, a former longtime member of the group told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was afraid of retaliation from Tyler Deaton.
Tyler Deaton was listed at one point as a division coordinator for IHOPU's "friendship groups," but the school said that was a mistake. It issued a statement distancing itself from Tyler Deaton after Moore, a student at IHOPU, was arrested.
"Since Bethany's death it has come to light that over five years ago, both she and Mr. Moore joined an independent, close-knit, religious group in Georgetown, Texas," the school said in a statement. "This religious group of fewer than 20 people was led by Tyler Deaton. They relocated to Kansas City over the last few years and operated under a veil of secrecy."
IHOPU is the educational arm of International House of Prayer of Kansas City, an evangelical Christian group focused on missions and preparation for the end of time.
The Deatons' prayer group had at least two houses, with women living in one and men in another. Bethany Deaton, 27, moved into the men's house with Tyler Deaton after they married in August. Moore lived there as well.
According to documents filed in court, Moore told police that men in the house began drugging Bethany Deaton and sexually assaulting her soon after she moved in. He said she was seeing a therapist and group members became concerned she would tell the therapist about the assaults.
Moore and other men who lived in the house told police that several group members also were having sexual relations with Tyler Deaton, unbeknownst to his wife. One man, whose name was blacked out of the probable cause statement, told police that Tyler Deaton said after Bethany Deaton died that he had had a dream he killed his wife by suffocating her.
Moore told detectives Tyler Deaton instructed him to kill Bethany Deaton because he knew Moore had it in him to do it, and that Moore reported back to Tyler Deaton after she was dead. Moore told police that he had placed a bag over Bethany Deaton's head and held it there until her body shook.